Becoming one-teacher-at-a-time-ish…

     Happy FIFTH Snow Day to me…

    I finished One Teacher at a Time last week (first post here), while at the same time dipping my toe into the criterion-based assessment waters in both Math ( a unit on fractions) and Science (a unit on force and motion).  I started by setting up class lists with the benchmarks heading the top row of a table, leaving room for assessment over multiple activities connected to each benchmark.  I also set up a student self-evaluation sheet and started each unit having students rate their own feelings of proficiency relative to each benchmark.

     What I’ve liked so far is the more specific way I’m pushed to introduce content to my class–rather than just a statement on how we’ll be studying force and motion, I gave the specific content we’ll focus on–contact and noncontact forces, balanced and unbalanced forces, etc.  With only a few science lessons completed, it seems like the students have a stronger sense of focus, and so do I. 

    One of the worries a colleague shared with me is that all this observational assessment would suck away time to help students.  I’ve found the opposite so far.  As I travel around the room observing students working through, for example, simplifying fractions, I can quickly determine who seems proficient and who does not.  From there, I can pull a quick small group to re-teach, pair more-proficient with less-proficient students for peer teaching, or access materials (like a fraction strip kit) that might help one or two particular students with comprehending the process and content of the benchmark.  And no one gets left out because I’m caught up with the first kid who needs help or the kid who needs constant reassurance about every–single–problem. 

    The big issue is the one I predicted–I’m having to re-assess how I’ve constructed lessons, chosen materials and assignments/activities, and sequenced the instruction.  I don’t mean to by whiny and lazy, but this is a LOT of work.  I can already picture what a long summer it’s going to be.  Worthwhile, sure–but lots of work.  Setting up a new gradebook online with all the benchmarks is just the beginning, really.  Re-conceptualizing every unit of study I’ve carefully crafted over the last four years in fifth grade is the real work. Once that is done, implementing will be rocky at first, but given what I’ve read and even the small bit I’ve begun to experience in my classroom, it will have a major payoff in student outcomes.  And I’ll get there, but from my cozy deep-mid-winter blogging chair, it seems like I should take a nap first.

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